Let’s cover how to mix up your biochar soil builder from GO Biochar for home use.
It is best to charge biochar first with compost (ideal), a compost tea, or some other means of conditioning such as the following:
- Organic compost
- Humate (1.5 lbs to 5 gallon volume of biochar)
- Azomite (micronized) or similar rock dust product (1.5 – 2 lbs to 5 gallon volume of biochar)
- Organic fertilizer – optional (Follow manufacturer instructions. Usually about 1 pound to 5 gallon biochar, depending on application and if you like to use fertilizers.)
- Mycorrhizal fungi start (Follow manufacturer instructions. I like to add directly to seeds and root balls at time of transplant)
- Nitrogen, anything plant soluble, such as alfalfa pellets or similar
- Animal outputs (go easy since bunny or chicken litter can be pretty strong or contain salts, composted outputs best)
- Molasses -unsulphered (usually only about 1 teaspoon per bucket of liquid for mix, don’t go big, more is not always better)
- Quality soil from your yard, garden, or even a neighbor’s yard (a shovel full)
I buy my Azomite, Humate, and organic fertilizer at IFA. Other feed and garden stores should carry similar items.
Consider adding sources of Nitrogen. This has a list of common sources found around the house: https://migardener.com/4-great-organic-sources-nitrogen-found-every-home/
Safety first! Please wear a quality mask when dealing dry biochar if dust is present. Wear eye protection. Like anything dusty, you don’t want to be breathing it or getting in your eyes.
Find a bin/bucket/barrel to mix this all together in. In about 2-3 gallons of water per 5 gallons by volume of biochar. (Rain water or tap water allowed to sit 24 hours to off-gas the chlorine works well.) Add the Azomite and Humate to the bucket. Stir it up vigorously and let sit for a while. The longer you have to get this dissolved in solution (aka mixed in the water and not sitting at the bottom as solid form) the better.
Next up, toss in some molasses because microbes love some sugars to get going. With that all mixed, add whatever you might have in terms of biological elements. This can include items on the list above such as quality compost, animal outputs, general nitrogen sources, or even any well performing soils from the existing garden or yard. Where you have good soil, you have great biology. Get that all stirring together. I like to stir it once an hour for most of the first day. I make sure to mix in a lot of air (I have a bubbler but you can do this with any container simply by scooping out the mix and pouring it back in from distance to get the bubbles going). We want this mix to be wet but not soaked, when you squeeze it like a snowball it should ball up and not drip.
Again, if you have time and can let this compost, use a compost tea, incorporate biologicals and the biochar mix for 1-3 days, that is great. If you can let is sit even longer, like 1-3 months, that is all the better. Be sure to stir it every couple days to start then once a week for longer aging processes.
Mix all of the above together. Mix it really well for 30 minutes. Let sit an hour. Mix 10 minutes again. Apply.
The biochar, water, and additions will have the consistency of a firm wet sponge and should not be dripping too much. You will have water pooling at the bottom of the barrel. Be sure to mix it all well right before incorporating so you have that good moisture in the char going in your soil. Again, always best to give this mix as much time as you can spare.
As a general rule adding about 10% by volume of biochar is ideal for most applications. However this may vary based on application and your goals.
1 cubic foot (5 gallons) of biochar applied over a 4′ x 8′ bed and mixed in at 4″-6″ depth provides 10% by volume. This comes out to be about a 1/2″ layer over the entire bed.
I personally mix biochar in at 10% to 25% into my soils. Went big on my gardens at about 25%. On my lawns I’m applying 7% each year until I hit 20%. In house plants, I start out with about 5% and work more in every few weeks because some houseplants are finicky and I want to see how they perform.
When would you add more? Biochar in larger percentages is great when it is for the water retention in dry soils or aeration attributes in compacted soils. There are no additional nutrient benefits over 20% with the exception of the water holding capacity and soil carbon capture.
I have a lot of customer that throw it in raw and experience great results. Personally I prefer and advise loading it up with the good stuff first.
Let’s talk about mychorrhizal fungi. Every single time you germinate seeds, add a dusting of a mycorrhizal fungi along with some biochar powder. Every single time you transplant, add a dusting of mycorrhizal fungi. Every single time you trench to place plants, add the fungi at the root zone. I’m a fan of MYKOS by Extreme Gardening but there are many brands to choose from.
The biochar gives the ultra deluxe living space to the microbes and beneficial bacterial. The fungi enhances communication in nutrient transition between those microbes and the plant roots. The plants give the microbes carbohydrates and carbon, the microbes give nutrients. A perfect symphony.
Have fun with your biochar.
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